Game of Thrones, Lena Headey

To create the hugely anticipated second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the cast and crew were — in the words of dragon queen Emilia Clarke — “battling everything.”

The Thrones team fought heat in Croatia, mud and rain in Belfast, and a blizzard in Iceland in their globe-trotting quest to bring the next installment of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series to life. And if warring against nature’s elements wasn’t enough, showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff faced the hefty narrative challenge of adapting an increasingly complex tale, introducing of a slew of new characters and figuring out how to pull off the most epic climactic battle ever attempted for television.

“This is season is about a country at war,” says Benioff, who along with Weiss, successfully lobbied HBO for a 15 percent budget increase to stage the second season. “And we felt like if we didn’t see the most important battle of this entire war onscreen, we’re going to shortchange viewers.”

Oh, and lest we forget, the team had to throw in a few realistic-looking dragons and direwolves too (the latter played by real wolves this time, enhanced by CGI, instead of dogs).

“To my knowledge, a story of this scale has never been told within filmed entertainment,” Weiss says. “There’s so many characters and locations and storylines, so many things that are atypical in television — and for good reason. You could do this show relatively easily with twice the money that we have, then after a couple great seasons it’d collapse under its own weight and cease to exist.”

But no pressure! We’ve seen the first two episodes and they’re … fantastic. How did the Thrones team pull it off? What can fans expect this season? And what do Thrones newbies need to know to catch up?

EW visited the Thrones set in Croatia to get the scoop and interview the producers and cast, and went to Belfast to snap some exclusive behind-the-scenes photos (including this priceless gem).

Pick up this week’s Entertainment Weekly featuring four different Game of

Thrones covers to get all the details on newsstands or buy them right now at

Plus keep an eye on the InsideTV blog for more Thrones coverage to come.

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Episode Recaps

Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

  • TV Show
  • 8
  • 73
  • TV-MA
  • David Benioff
  • D.B. Weiss
  • HBO
stream service